When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

The buying process

Buying a home is stressful. You'll need a trusted solicitor to help and you will have to pay lots of fees and charges.

After you make an offer

You make an offer "subject to contract". This means either you or the seller can still withdraw from the sale. A sale can fall through for all kinds of reasons, including if

  • the survey finds a serious problem
  • you can't get a mortgage
  • the seller changes their mind about the sale

Mortgage valuation

Your mortgage provider has to value the property. The mortgage company can

  • refuse your mortgage if they find a serious fault
  • reduce the amount they will lend if the valuer thinks the property isn't worth what you've offered

You pay for this survey, although some mortgage deals give you a free valuation survey.

Property condition reports

Ask a surveyer to inspect the property and to give you a report about its condition. 

You have to pay for this type of survey. But, it can help you spot problems in the property that could cost thousands to fix. 

The cost of a condition report depends on the size of the property and the level of detail you want. 

Problems spotted in survey

If your surveyor report finds a problem in the property, you can

  • ask the seller to repair the problem before you exchange contracts, or
  • ask the seller to reduce the price to cover the cost of the repairs
  • withdraw your offer to buy the property.

Your solicitor can help you negotiate with the sellers. This will add costs to your legal bill. 

Solicitor's job when you're buying a home

You need a solicitor to buy a home. They will look after the legal work needed to transfer the home into your name. 

Ask friends or family to recommend a solicitor. You can get a list of solicitors from the Law Society of NI website.

Your solicitor may give you an estimate of how much the work will cost. But, the cost can go up if there are any complications. 

There are certain things you should make sure to ask your solicitor, like

  • is the property freehold or leasehold
  • do you have to pay any annual service charges and are these paid up to date
  • are there any restrictions on what you can do with the property (e.g. fencing, car parking)

Your solicitor can help you to negotiate the terms of the sale. 

They can draw up legal agreements to reflect your interest in the property, if you're buying with someone else.

Exchanging contracts and paying the deposit

Before you sign the contract, make sure

  • your solicitor has checked all the legal paperwork
  • any work the seller agreed to do before exchange is complete
  • the seller has paid any bills for ground rent or service charges
  • your solicitor got an indemnity, or promise, from the seller to pay outstanding charges
  • your deposit is ready to send to the seller.

Your solicitor will review the final contract before you sign it. They will tell you what you need to do to transfer your deposit. 

The sale is only complete once you and the seller have signed and exchanged contracts. 

Completing the sale and moving in

Your solicitor, or the estate agent, will tell you when you can collect the keys and move in. 

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is a tax you have to pay when you buy property. You have 14 days from the date you complete to pay your stamp duty. 

The amount of stamp duty you pay depends on

  • if you are a first-time buyer
  • if you own any other property, and
  • the final price you paid for the property.

Use the stamp duty calculator on to work out how much tax you have to pay. 

Your solicitor will usually help you with stamp duty. You'll give them the money and they will complete the forms and send off the money. 


You have to pay rates for any property you own. These pay for regional services like hospitals, and local services like leisure centres.

Contact Land & Property Services to tell them when you moved in. They will calculate your bill for the year and send this to you. 

You can claim back any rates you've overpaid on the home you moved out of.